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Books Politics & Society

‘Democracy is an experiment…’

Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club #books

“Holmes would never have called himself a pragmatist; he associated the term with a desire to smuggle religion back into modern thought under a pseudo-scientific cover. But his belief that life is an experiment, and that since we can never be certain we must tolerate dissent, is consistent with everything James, Peirce, and Dewey wrote. What Holmes did not share with those thinkers was their optimism. He did not believe that the experimental spirit will necessarily lead us, ultimately, down the right path. Democracy is an experiment, and it is in the nature of experiments sometimes to fail. He had seen it fail once.”

— Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club

Never has democracy and pluralism been so fragile. As Hannah Arendt reminds us: in order to stem the tide of evil, we should be thankful for the peaceful consciousness we already have.

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Books Politics & Society Tech

Social media divides democracy 

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Social media divides democracy by allowing people to filter their own world and ignore the stuff they don’t agree with.

Disagreement is the pulse of an open society. The more ideas we throw out there and discuss, the more likely we are to land on the most advanced solution.

Facebook killed openness and smothered curiosity along with it. One way to rebuild healthy dissent is through more democratic design.

In his new book, Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein proposes that Facebook should have ‘serendipity buttons’ that reveal the opposite side’s viewpoint with a click.

We are the sum of our parts, easily driven into stagnancy and sidedness through closed worlds. Nothing evolves through repetition. Variety yields results.

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Culture Life & Philosophy Politics & Society

Who’s in control? 

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The power of continuous small actions from a plurality of groups can, when added up, deconstruct a traditional organized system.

You don’t have to be an elected official or celebrity artist to influence the outcome of larger events. Like a swarm of bees, a group or groups of groups can suffocate the whole.

But it’s not quite clear who exactly, professionals, lobbyists, or the collaborative stealth is playing the most rational actor. Such is a deep state.

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Life & Philosophy Politics & Society Quotes

‘Coercion is natural; freedom is artificial.’

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From Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club:

Coercion is natural; freedom is artificial. Freedoms are socially engineered spaces where parties engaged in specified pursuits enjoy protection from parties who would otherwise naturally seek to interfere with those pursuits. One person’s freedom is therefore always another person’s restriction: we would not have even the concept of freedom if the reality of coercion were not already present. We think of freedom as a right, and therefore the opposite of a rule, but a right is a rule. It is a prohibition against sanctions on certain types of behavior. We also think of rights as privileges retained by individuals against the rest of society, but rights are created not for the good of individuals, but for the good of society. Individual freedoms are manufactured to achieve group ends.

Democracy is an experiment, one that’s meant to keep going. Beware those who try to take it away like this, this, and this.

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Superstition is the great enemy of truth.

Xu Liangying
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Inclusivity

I love it when those with a significant following express exactly how I feel so the word reaches a much broader audience.

Fred Wilson did this today expressing similar frustration with exclusive sites like Branch, Sbvtle, and Medium.

If you haven’t heard of these sites, they are the latest blogging platforms. While beautifully designed, the sites are controlled, permitting only significant contributors inside in attempt to dictate the conversation.

I’ve requested to be part of all three and have only been accepted to Branch. Side note: My little brother is still awaiting his Branch invite and because of this experience, will probably never come back.

Furthermore, even when you get into Branch, you have to be invited to a group conversation. I was ok with that in the beginning but have recently found it annoying. I shouldn’t have to give the community owner a one sentence preview before I get approved to speak. Quora does just fine with open comments. Those with the best opinion/insight get voted up.

I hope Fred’s post get these blogging platforms to change their minds and be more open. We need to keep the web an open democracy.

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Ko Siu Lan
Ko Siu Lan